The book of Philippians is full of what Pastor Matt Chandler calls "coffee cup verses". These are verses that you find on coffee cups, key chains, T-shirts, etc in the Christian bookstore. In chapter one I want to focus on one of the great "coffee cup verses" in Philippians chapter 1.
"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21
Let me give you a little more context before I write more about this verse.
"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body." Philippians 1:21-24
After reading these verses I was left asking these questions: "Can I say to live is Christ in all circumstance? Can I say to die is gain in all circumstances?"
To Live is Christ
Paul wrote this letter to the church at Philippi when he was is a cold, dark, nasty prison without a timetable for release. One can easy see why Paul could say, "to die is gain." "To live is Christ" was a much bigger claim for him. So, why did he say "to live is Christ"? He said it because living meant more fruitful labor. See, Paul knew that while he was alive he was still part of God's mission on earth. He knew that his living was necessary for the Church.
Have you been in a place where it was easier to say "to die is gain" than "to live is Christ"? Depression, death of a loved one, cancer, loneliness... the list can go on and on; when we are affected by things like this we are prone to want to depart from our bodies to be with Jesus. But we don't get to go home unless we are called home (this is not me saying that suicide=damnation. Suicide is wrong because we aren't meant to decide when we die, but it is not an automatically damnable sin). So, until God calls you home, He calls you to serve Him on earth. Even in the lowest of times we are to say "to live is Christ". Even when life seems to be at its worst "to live is Christ". We must say "to live is Christ" in all circumstances.
To Die is Gain
My life on earth is pretty darn good. I have a job I love, I am married to the love of my life, I have great friends... I have many good reasons to live and I thank God for all of it all. That being said, I must be able to say that right now "to die is gain". I must believe that being in the direct presence of Christ is better than anything life can offer me. Does this mean I don't value my life? Absolutely not! This means that while I love my life now, I anxiously look forward to living with my God in Heaven.
Are you in a place where when you think about Heaven you can't see how it could be better than what you have now? I mean, your family, your job, your friends, your stuff, etc is all exactly what you'd hoped them to be. I have felt like this, but I was wrong. Through better understanding who God is I've become more anxious to be with Him. Christians should never get to the place where we love what we have now on earth more than God's promise to dwell with us in Heaven. Paul says, "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far." We must believe that being with Christ is better by far than anything else. We must say "to die is gain" in all circumstances.
"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Can you say that in all circumstances? Can we live because we know that we live in the middle of God's mission on earth? Can we not fear death because we know that what lies beyond death is better by far? To live and to die are both good for the Christian. This is a great promise. Don't be afraid to die for Christ and don't be afraid to live for Christ today.